Background

Friday, September 28, 2018

Ambassadors for Christ

How can we be effective ambassadors for Jesus Christ? This has been on my mind a lot lately. We are called to represent the Kingdom of God, to reflect HIS official position. But I have struggled with how. Obviously we need to be good examples, but I wanted to know more of how to share and what to say. It's especially difficult with close family and friends. I don't want to put anyone off with a sermon. I had an Aunt who did that to my family even though we were Christians and regularly attended church. She would deliver sermons to prove that her way was better than our way. I can speak from experience that that was NOT an effective way to be an ambassador for Christ. So I've been researching this topic, reading lots of different articles and sermons. Writing is a good way for me to put new information together so that I can live it out. However, I also have a deep-seated need to share what I've learned with others. It must be the teacher in me!

First in my mind, as ambassadors we need to be sensitive so that people listen to our message. Rather than scaring them with the horror of hell, encourage with the love of God. Arguing with people is never an effective tactic, nor is pounding them with their sins. Instead we should share how deep a love God has for us, that he gave His only Son up to suffering and death to save us. We need to convey how wonderful a relationship with God is and what a powerful effect it has had on our lives.

When we have our minds and hearts set on sensitivity to others, we need to be ready and alert for opportunities to represent Christ. Short interactions with others can be very powerful. Even small acts of kindness can open doors of understanding to others. We don't need to be armed with sermons for everyone we meet. We are dependent on God's power. We must use our best efforts together with God’s power in order to share the good news. We need to pray daily for opportunities to be ambassadors and for the Holy Spirit to guide us in what to say, and when to be quiet.

When we think of Jesus and His disciples sharing the Good News with others, what comes to mind? Like the disciples, we need to demonstrate the characteristics that Jesus taught such as kindness, self control, compassion, love, patience, gentleness, forgiveness, and humility to name a few. Be patient, don’t quarrel, listen in order to understand, then gently, respectfully engage people in conversation.

Jesus taught by asking questions. That is the ultimate model for us to follow. People immediately feel more positive when we are interested enough to ask them questions. If we are engaging with someone new, it is vitally important that we establish a relationship with them. Even with close family and friends, a good way to open up a channel of communication is to ask questions. We can follow Jesus' example by asking personal, meaningful questions. This shows our interest in THEM and gives us information about how they feel and where they are right now in terms of their spiritual growth or openness to more information.

We should obviously have knowledge of God's Word. We need to be able to share what God's Word has to say about different topics. We should also be ready to find answers if we are asked something we don't know. If we are not regular readers of God's Word, how can we share it?


Humility. Jesus spoke often of being humble. That can be a difficult concept in today's society. As ambassadors for Christ, we need to be humble, not arrogant because we know we are right. We must remember that our understanding of truth is fallible. We must not press a point beyond what we know or what evidence shows.

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God."
2 Corinthians 5:18-20

In the scripture passage above, two words popped out at me. I wanted to define them more so that I could have more clarity and understanding. An ambassador is a respected official acting as a representative of a nation. Sent to a foreign land, the ambassador’s role is to reflect the official position of the sovereign body that gave him authority. Foreign land? Yes! Christians are definitely in a foreign land here on earth. In John 18: 3-6 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.

The second term is ministry of reconciliation. This is the work believers have been given to do and the message they to pass on to others. That message is that you can have a restored relationship with God through Jesus. Sin prevents us from having a relationship with God, but through God's grace, Jesus' sacrifice on the cross paid for our sins and brought harmony to our relationship with God. Jesus reconciled us to God. Verse 19 (above) says, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ. He uses us to tell the world that they can be reconciled to God through Christ. In this way, we become “Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”

Christians are in a foreign land here on earth. Christ called us to share His foreign kingdom with others. Like Mission Impossible, our mission, if we choose to accept it, is that people can have a restored relationship with God through Jesus. Unlike Mission Impossible, if we are caught by the enemy while in foreign territory, we will never be disavowed. God will NEVER forsake us. Even though we are living on sinful, foreign territory, surrounded and persecuted by the enemy, God will never leave us. He is always with us. We must remain steadfast as Ambassadors for Christ. The best way to sum up how to be a more effective ambassador for Christ comes from Ann Graham Lotz. "I want to let Christ radiate from within me, His joy sparkling from my eyes, His love lighting up my face."

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Hearing God's Voice on Your Heart

In Pursuing More of Jesus, Anne Graham Lotz is teaching Inductive Bible Study. As a former educator, I am impressed with this method, because it uses higher order thinking skills. This is the best way to retain information.

The object of these devotional studies is not to get through the study, but to develop your personal relationship with God in order to satisfy your spiritual hunger and increase your spiritual health.

NOTES FROM CHAPTER ONE

  • In the first seminar, Lotz says that "there are so many voices in the world- they are like static."
  • God speaks primarily through the Scriptures, and at times, through other people - which is where we must be careful.
  • What others say should always be in accord with and confirmed by His Word. 
  • The Confusion about Authenticity: This mixture of true and false shepherds can be confusing to those who have become casual in their relationship with God and their attitude toward His Word.
  • When God speaks it's in the language of our own personal lives, through a verse or passage of Scripture that just seems to leap off the page with our name on it.
  • When a person claims to speak for God yet that person is false, the authentic sheep may not know specifically what is wrong, but instinctively we know it is It's as though a warning bell goes off in our spirits. Our spiritual antennae are alerted. (the spiritual gift of discernment?)
  • The only way we can know the true from the false is to know the Shepherd's voice - God's Word.
  • One of the primary reasons we need to be in a disciplined study of the Scriptures is so we can saturate ourselves in the truth.
  • In order to give God's Word out so that others can hear His voice in their ears, we MUST read it, study it, understand it, apply it, live by it. But that's not enough! We have to listen for our Shepherd's voice to speak to us through it. Personally. 
  • We will recognize our Shepherd's voice when we listen with our eyes on the pages of our Bibles.


Prayer



Friday, September 14, 2018

God's Guidance

God has been with us amid all the confusion with different versions of our current book. The book I ordered directly from Anne Graham Lotz's website came yesterday. It's different than the one Amy ordered for us. Thank goodness because the one Amy chose is the best one for us!!

I just love how God has been helping me with preparations and planning for this lesson. His Grace is such a blessing. We certainly felt him with us yesterday as we watched the first video.

I'm so looking forward to studying John and learning to use this inductive Bible study method with all of my sisters in Christ!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Good and Evil Part 3


Pain and suffering presents possibly the biggest obstacle of our earthly life. As believers, we want to be good, we read the Bible and we long to have a relationship with God. Then tragedy enters our lives and we grieve when the innocent child suffers from abuse or a beloved parent suffers greatly from cancer. We pray for God to save us from suffering and we don't understand why he doesn't just fix it all. People wonder what is the reason we were put here on this earth, in this place, with these people in this circumstance. We must understand that in His infinite wisdom God has a much higher purpose than we can possibly imagine from our limited earthly view. C.S. Lewis explains that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Norman Geisler of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, says that "God is more interested in our holiness than in our happiness. He is more interested in our character than in our comfort."

One key to understanding why there is evil and why innocent suffer, is to also remember that we have faith the size of only a mustard seed. We are to have blind faith in the God of all creation. We must remember that God already has done something about evil. He sent His only Son into the world to die for the world and to defeat evil. This defeat began at Christ’s first coming through His death and resurrection (Colossians 2:14, Hebrews 2:14, Ephesians 4:7-12). We must remember that the Bible accurately predicted Christ’s first coming through nearly 100 fulfilled prophecies, also promises that Christ will come again and will completely defeat evil. Because of God's great love and sacrifice, we now have a way to be reconciled with Him through Christ. This does not mean that we'll no longer suffer in this world but it does mean that we will spend eternity with God. Revelations 21:4 tells us, He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

We know that Christ will return, and God will then make everything right, by destroying evil for good. We know that this will happen, until then, we must maintain our relationship with God, trust in HIs love, and wait for our beautiful life in Heaven to begin. This world is full of disaster, destruction and death, but heaven will have none of these. John said: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away. … And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:1, 4,).




Good and Evil Part 2


Theodicy, (from Greek theos, “God”; dikÄ“, “justice”), explanation of why a perfectly good, almighty, and all-knowing God permits evil.

In the last post I discussed good and evil. With those concepts in mind, we can begin to think about WHY evil exists and why God allows it. I realize that one article can not possibly address this topic fully or completely answer all the questions that surround it, but I feel compelled to share what I've learned through research, as I have been given much peace. Just think for a minute if God made the world perfect. If the Paradise lost in the Garden of Eden will become the Paradise regained, how did this one get so messed up? Why didn’t God make the first world and its people more perfect and skip this messed-up version in between?

Think of marionettes and puppets. If God fixed everything that was wrong...all the hurts and all the weaknesses, all the illnesses and evil in the world, then he would be a puppet master and we would simply be puppets. In order to take away evil, God would have to take away our free will. When sin entered the world in the garden of Eden, our ability to choose our actions let evil in the world. Think about the type of love that existed in the Garden of Eden before Eve took that fateful bite. What kind of love could Adam and Eve have had for God if they knew nothing but good? Compare that with the type of love that we can have for God now that we have seen and experienced evil. Now when we choose to love God, it's a deeper more authentic kind of love. Remember in the previous post, Augustine defined evil as a lack of something – rather than a thing or substance in and of itself. If evil is not an actual thing, then God cannot be the author of evil. God is the author of good, but we make moral choices that result in evil.

Think about a world without evil. This would be a world without morality. Imagine if God created a world where people could not choose, and He could force everyone to stop before they were able to carry out evil behavior. Is such a world where freedom does not exist good? Love is possible only for free moral creatures. Forced love is a contradiction because it's really not possible. So, in order for the world to be morally good, it must be morally free. People are capable of free choices that bring disease, disaster and death. This is the world in which we live.

Robert Velarde, former editor for Focus on the Family, reminds us that, "God knows best and, as such, He knows that our world is the best way to the best possible world. Yes, there will be evil and suffering along the way. We can rejoice with the apostle Paul when he wrote, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18)."



Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Good and Evil Part 1

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

It's important to have hope. Scripture offers hope and comfort, but sometimes we still wonder about evil. Just watch the news, that will have you scurrying to find a bit of hope. We live in this big bad world where evil abounds. People are hurting and have questions about God and good and evil. Many wonder how could a good God allow so much evil and why doesn't he do something about it? Couldn't God have created a world without evil? I think we've all had these questions at one time or another, and they really hit home when friends and family members are suffering. I did some research and I'd like to share some of the answers that I found. Rather than trying to put it all in one blog post, I'm going to break it down into bits. First, I'd like to share what I learned about good and bad, specifically evil. I never really thought about defining evil before, but when I read what some great minds have written about it, it really helps put everything into perspective.

The reality of evil and suffering has even baffled some great thinkers as they struggle with the existence of a loving God and the fact of evil. I've learned that there is even a word for this, it's called theodicy. Theodicy is Greek, theos - which means God and dike which means justice. One definition is: vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil.

In his book “Mere Christianity,” former atheist C.S. Lewis noted, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.” Aha! When I first read this, I experienced a glimmer of understanding. I thought of starlight against the dark night sky. We never see the stars except at night. We know good because of evil. Another way to think of it can be found in what Augustine said. “God judged it better to bring good out of evil, than to suffer no evil to exist.” You must acknowledge that good exists for evil to exist. There can be no evil without there being good. Augustine defined evil not as a thing in itself, but as a parasite on good. Augustine considered evil something that is missing. It requires good to exist because it is a parasite.

There is one more point that I had never thought of and that is natural evil and moral evil. Robert Velarde, former editor for Focus on the Family, says, "evil actually extends not only to the moral world, but also to the natural world. When human beings do bad things to one another, this is moral evil. But so-called natural disasters are often considered evil as well because of all the suffering they cause."

With these definitions and explanations of evil in place, we can have a foundation for understanding more. The next post will attempt to provide some answers to how could a good God allow so much evil and why doesn't he do something about it? Couldn't God have created a world without evil? Until then, remember we do have hope in Christ. As the Apostle Paul said, we sorrow but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). And without His great power and love we would have no hope of ever getting a better world. Only a God who can bring good out of evil can solve this world’s problems.